Helping Global Transition To Low Carbon Future
The core mission of Ioneer is to develop a U.S. based source of lithium and boron that can be extracted in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, providing for two materials that are essential to achieve a sustainable future for our planet. Both lithium and boron are used in a diverse range of everyday items and innovative technologies that are essential to modern life and emerging clean technologies such as electric vehicles and storage for renewable energy.
LITHIUM & BORON – TWO COMPLEMENTARY MATERIALS ESSENTIAL IN A MODERN WORLD
Lithium is a critical raw material to enable technologies that reduce climate change. It is an irreplaceable component for current and next-generation batteries essential to the mass adoption of electric vehicles and electric battery storage systems that lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions.
- Essential to all types of EV batteries
- Conversion of green energy to base load power
- Strong demand growth predicted to beyond 2040
- Listed as a critical material by the US Government
- Though U.S. has the world’s 2nd largest vehicle fleet, there is very limited domestic lithium production
Boron is also a primary material for clean technologies and sustainability and is only produced in a few locations globally – 72% of worlds known reserves are in Turkey. It is used in over 300 applications, including home insulation, permanent magnets for electric cars and wind turbines, and advanced glass for televisions, computers, handheld devices and solar panels.
The future of clean technology both today and tomorrow will be defined by access to the critical minerals needed to enable these technologies. Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project will not only ensure that these resources are sourced in a sustainable and ethical manner but will also strengthen America’s position as an economic leader and reduce its reliance on foreign sources of critical minerals.
Boron is key to several climate technologies including:
- Hybrid and fully electric vehicles
- Insulation Materials that reduce energy use
- Agriculture as a micronutrient supporting sustainable farming
- Wind turbine drive trains and blades
- Glass in Solar PV modules
- Hydrogen fuel cells
Uses of Boron in EVs:
- Permanent magnet motors
- Chassis for light weight strength
A SUSTAINABLE AMERICAN FUTURE REQUIRES A STABLE SUPPLY CHAIN
The name Ioneer is derived from the combination of “ion” and “pioneer,” reflecting the Company’s aim to be pioneers in producing the materials for a sustainable future. The Rhyolite Ridge Project will not only responsibly produce the critical materials needed to reduce fossil fuel reliance but will also bolster American-led green technology.
In 2022, we announced that we have signed a binding offtake agreement with Ford Motor Company, and with
Prime Planet Energy & Solutions (a Toyota/Panasonic joint venture company) to supply lithium from Rhyolite Ridge for lithium-ion batteries planned for EVs built in America.
Along with the increased offtake volume with EcoPro Innovation agreed upon earlier this year, we have now completed our pre-production lithium carbonate supply commitments that we intend to make.
TRANSITION TO A SUSTAINABLE
The U.S. Government has increasingly emphasized the need for to promote electrification of the country’s transportation fleet as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A domestic manufacturing supply chain, from raw materials to car production and ultimately through to recycling allows the U.S. to reach this goal while maintaining national security, creating high-quality jobs, fostering social justice and ensuring compliance to rigorous environmental applicable regulations.
Electrification requires lithium, and Rhyolite Ridge will be a secure source of compounds ready to be utilized in the lithium-ion battery supply chain.
AMERICAN PRODUCTION OF
CRITICAL RESOURCES WILL PROPEL OUR
The U.S. has been a global leader of manufacturing and innovation. In order to continue to build on that legacy, our country must have access to the base resources that enable green technology to flourish.
As Nevada has become home to an increasing number of lithium-ion battery companies over the last ten years, the Silver State now has a tremendous economic opportunity to create jobs across the supply chain: from raw materials to high-tech manufacturing, and in geographic areas both rural and urban.
Ioneer has entered into formal memorandums of understanding with Nevada lithium battery manufacturers: Dragonfly Energy in Reno (the company behind Battle Born Batteries), and Nextech Batteries in Carson City. As production commences it is our desire that a portion of the lithium carbonate produced at Rhyolite Ridge will be utilized by these battery manufacturers and thereby creating a robust lithium supply chain right here in the Silver State.
DOMESTIC PRODUCTION OF CRITICAL RESOURCES PROTECTS PEOPLE & THE ENVIRONMENT
The global lithium market is expanding rapidly due to an increase in the use of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicle and energy storage applications. The United States, while being home to several global lithium companies, produces about 1% of the world’s total lithium. By 2024, U.S. demand for lithium compounds used to produce lithium-ion batteries is estimated to be approximately 105,000 tons per year growing to over 300,000 tons per year by 2030 per year according to a Benchmark Materials Intelligence assessment of existing and planned production facilities. Rhyolite Ridge looks to produce over 20,000 tons per year of lithium compounds that can be used to manufacture batteries to power about 400,000 electric vehicles per year.
Large-scale borate resources are also very rare; Rhyolite Ridge is one of only two major lithium-boron deposits globally, and the existing two major suppliers of borates currently hold over 80% of the global market share.
Without the expansion of lithium and boron production, the U.S. would be forced to turn to foreign producers for these critical resources.
RIGOROUS REGULATIONS AND STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITTING
Water usage, waste disposal, and emissions in other countries are not necessarily subject to the same stringent regulatory requirements as operators within the United States. In South America, where lithium is mined from brine formations the production process includes multiple, large holding ponds. Australian hard rock deposits require refining via roasting at high temperatures (1000°C). Rhyolite Ridge’s unique mineralogy requires neither holding ponds, nor roasting and our production process is designed to limit water usage and be environmentally protective.
HIGHER REDUCTION OF WORLDWIDE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
By sourcing lithium locally for use in the U.S. electric vehicle supply chain, the environmental production footprint can be smaller. For example, the need to transport materials across oceans in fossil-fuel burning ships is eliminated. Accordingly, the worldwide greenhouse gas impact of replacing a U.S. built fossil fuel powered vehicle with an electric vehicle can be amplified by using domestically produced lithium.
The geology and mineralization of the Rhyolite Ridge Project is globally unique and affords the opportunity for Ioneer to extract strategic and critical minerals in an environmentally responsible manner.
Environmental stewardship of all resources is at the core of Ioneer’s mission to develop the unique Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project that will produce large quantities of vital materials critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Ioneer’s planned processing facility includes a sulfuric acid plant and related steam turbine, which will allow the Project to produce sufficient electricity to power its entire operation. This means zero reliance on the Nevada electrical grid and minimal use of fossil fuels to produce needed electricity. Electricity generated in this manner produces minimal CO2 emissions and minimal hazardous air pollutants and is considered green co-generation.
REDUCED WATER NEEDS
Water use associated with Ioneer’s production of materials is extremely low compared to other lithium producers, especially those that utilize brine extraction and solar evaporation. The design is optimized to reduce water demand and will recycle a majority of the water used in the refining process.
When mining is complete and operational dewatering ceases, the groundwater system will recover and a terminal quarry lake is predicted to remain. As groundwater levels recover, the quarry lake level will slowly rise and approach the pre-mining static water level; however, the quarry lake level will remain below the surrounding groundwater levels due to evaporation from the lake surface and act as a hydrologic sink with groundwater flowing into the quarry lake from all directions. The ultimate quarry lake elevation is predicted to be 5,720 feet above mean sea level. This recovery of the groundwater table is predicted to occur over several decades, with the majority occurring within approximately 35 to 40 years.
DEWATERING AND DEPRESSURIZATION
In-pit dewatering will be necessary in all stages of quarry progression to maintain a dry, stable floor, as the lower hydraulic conductivity of the Cave Springs formation provides a barrier to groundwater flow in the quarry. Dewatering rates are predicted to range from 65 to 120 gallons per minute. A minimum of one dewatering area will be maintained at all times in the lowest area of the pit floor. This water will be pumped out of the quarry using dewatering pumps where it will be sent to the process circuit for reuse. Storm water controls will be constructed around the perimeter of the pit, before the quarrying process begins in the respective area, to limit the quantity of water in the pit.
Ioneer’s entire focus is to develop and produce the materials necessary for the transition to a zero-carbon future, which will help ensure the protection and preservation of all plant and animal species, including Tiehm’s buckwheat.
WILDLIFE & FLORA PROTECTION
One of the fourteen environmental baseline studies completed by Ioneer focused on characterizing the flora and fauna of the area. Amongst other species, this study concentrated on Tiehm’s buckwheat, a plant that is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) . Ioneer fully supports the FWS’ decisions regarding the ongoing management and protection of Tiehm’s buckwheat populations, including an ESA listing. Information on our conservation efforts for Tiehm’s buckwheat is described in further detail below.
MAINTAINING PUBLIC ACCESS
One of Ioneer’s primary tenets in developing the Plan of Operations for the Project was to allow for ongoing safe public access through the Project Area. Accordingly, Ioneer conducted an analysis of roads within the Project Area to ensure that the we can safely retrieve and process the ore, while simultaneously ensuring safe public access to the areas around the site.
Ioneer continues to work closely with Esmeralda County to ensure that the access road is improved and maintained in a manner that preserves access for the public through and around the Project.
PROTECTING VISUAL RESOURCES
A Visual Resources Technical Report was prepared in 2020 to characterize existing conditions associated with visual aspects in and around the Project Area. Ioneer is committed to minimizing the visual impact of activities and structures to viewers along publicly accessible roadways and public use areas. Dark sky lighting best practices will also minimize the effects of lighting on wildlife that may be present in the area, including bats.
Several examples of measures Ioneer intends to implement include:
- Careful placement and blending of stored materials to minimize contrast
- Selection of building sites and new roads such that they would be hidden from view behind topographical features, where possible
- Consultation with BLM on choice of colors of machinery, fencing, and powerlines; lighting design and color
- Design, color, and surface texture treatments for the Processing Plant structures.
- To minimize the effects from lighting, Ioneer will utilize hooded stationary lights, where lighting will be directed onto the pertinent site only and away from adjacent areas not in use, with safety and proper lighting of the active work areas being a priority.
Protecting Tiehm’s Buckwheat
IONEER’S COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING TIEHM’S BUCKWHEAT AT RHYOLITE RIDGE
About Tiehm’s Buckwheat
Tiehm’s buckwheat (Eriogonum tiehmii) is a perennial forb that was first identified at Rhyolite Ridge in Esmeralda County, Nevada in 1983. No other occurrences of the plant are known at this time. Tiehm’s buckwheat has been listed as an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, meaning the species requires special management to ensure its protection and preservation.
To ensure the long-term viability of Tiehm’s buckwheat within and near Rhyolite Ridge, we have evaluated a broad range of protection and management measures to maintain and uplift the species. In developing these options, Ioneer consulted with experts who have studied other buckwheat species in Nevada, and who are familiar with similar conservation plans in the Western U.S.
We are focused on balancing the need to develop a nationally important and critical mineral resource essential to a sustainable planet while maintaining and uplifting the Tiehm’s buckwheat population at Rhyolite Ridge.
HOW IONEER IS PROTECTING TIEHM’S BUCKWHEAT
Ioneer has always been firmly committed to the long-term viability and reduction of the risk of species extinction of Tiehm’s buckwheat and has spent over $1,250,000 on research and developing protection measures over the past 3 years. Specifically, we worked in the following ways to protect, conserve and expand this sensitive species in its natural habitat:
ESTABLISHING A PROTECTION PLAN
Ioneer has developed and implemented a BLM approved comprehensive Tiehm’s Buckwheat Protection Plan that includes strict measures that have been in place since Ioneer commenced exploration at Rhyolite Ridge in 2016. The goal of these voluntary measures is to ensure that the plant and its habitat are protected, and that the potential impacts caused by development of the Project are minimized.
A central component of the Buckwheat Protection Plan involves complete avoidance of all populations of Tiehm’s Buckwheat, with a buffer zone between all mining activities and the plants. In the meantime, Ioneer is committed to increasing the area of the buckwheat population.
WORKING WITH REGULATORS
The protection and conservation of Tiehm’s buckwheat is a key component in Ioneer’s environmental stewardship and incorporated into all aspects of our planning and permitting activities. In July 2022, the Company submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) a revised Plan of Operations that incorporated additional key commitments relating to buckwheat conservation:
- Minimizing and mitigating indirect impacts utilizing standard operating measures; and
- Minimizing disturbance within designated critical habitat.
Ioneer’s ongoing conservation efforts for Tiehm’s buckwheat are aimed at addressing current and future threats to the species, including climate-related threats. Under the supervision of a full-time botanist, the Company is conducting scientific research to further increase knowledge of the species and is now operating a dedicated greenhouse in Nevada where plants are being successfully grown from seed collected from the known populations
DEVELOPING A CONSERVATION PLAN
Ioneer is actively working with experts, regulators and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive Tiehm’s buckwheat conservation plan that will be implemented during the length of mining operations.
In furtherance of this commitment, Ioneer has budgeted $1M over the next several years to conduct research and implement conservation measures to address existing risks to Tiehm’s buckwheat, and to uplift and expand the species.
In June of 2022, Ioneer began the process to construct a dedicated greenhouse in Nevada to grow Tiehm’s buckwheat from seeds collected at Rhyolite Ridge. We were also proud to hire a full-time botanist who will oversee the greenhouse and growing of the plant. The knowledge gained through our greenhouse activities will also help to guide future propagation and transplant studies as we seek to expand the Tiehm’s buckwheat population.
MINIMIZING POTENTIAL IMPACTS
Ioneer initiated a full survey of the existing Tiehm’s buckwheat population prior to any field activities. We have conducted all work in consultation with regulatory authorities and guidelines and have taken great care to avoid the buckwheat subpopulations.
These efforts included modifying locations of boreholes to avoid the plants, drilling boreholes in several directions from a common drill pad to reduce the total amount of surface disturbance, educating employees and contractors about the plant, and other avoidance measures.
Implementation of Fugitive Dust Best Management Practices will be employed to verify that there is no deposition of dust within any of the subpopulations.
Targeted control efforts utilizing best practices will be employed to limit the spread of invasive plant species and treat infestations as appropriate.
ENGAGING BUCKWHEAT SPECIALISTS
Ioneer has retained the services of academic and commercial experts to augment its biological team and develop protection measures that will ensure the persistence of the plant in natural conditions. These specialists are well respected within the botanical sciences and all are members of the Eriogonum Society, a professional association whose members have expertise in evaluating, propagating, and protecting various types of buckwheat.
Ioneer is working with The Conservation Fund to further explore viable options around protection and conservation efforts for Tiehm’s buckwheat. The Conservation Fund is one of the largest non-profit environmental groups in the United States and has commenced work with relevant federal agencies on buckwheat conservation strategies.
ENHANCING KNOWLEDGE WITH RESEARCH
Ioneer worked with researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) over thirteen months to conduct a propagation and transplant trial for Tiehm’s buckwheat. The project successfully grew over 1,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat seedlings in the UNR greenhouse from seeds collected at Rhyolite Ridge, which were planted in three test sites in the Project Area in April 2020.
In January 2021, Ioneer announced key findings from a research report authored by UNR scientists. Importantly, the report greatly advanced existing knowledge of Tiehm’s buckwheat and creates the foundation for future efforts to ensure long term protection, and uplift of the plant in its natural habitat at Rhyolite Ridge. As the first study of its type to be completed for Tiehm’s buckwheat and the first study of any kind on the plant in over 10 years, UNR’s report represents a major step forward in the understanding of this species.
Consistent with Ioneer’s commitment to the environment and desire to ensure a sustainable buckwheat population at Rhyolite Ridge, Ioneer has expanded the scope of its work with commercial research partners while also continuing to collaborate with academic researchers to determine the best ways to uplift this species.
IONEER REMAINS COMMITTED TO TIEHM’S BUCKWHEAT CONSERVATION
Ioneer remains committed to pursuing conservation efforts for Buckwheat which address current gaps in our scientific knowledge of the species and to address threats that are unrelated to our proposed mining activities. We have completed numerous studies and greatly advanced scientific knowledge of the plant. This work has resulted in several new clarifications from previous studies.
Moreover, Ioneer has budgeted $1,000,000 over the next several years to conduct research and implement conservation measures to address risks to the species that are not related to our mining activities.
Ioneer intends to continue its cooperative work with interested agencies on these efforts. Examples of the kinds of studies that could be cooperatively developed with the BLM and the FWS include, but may not be limited to:
- Field surveys for new populations
- Seed collection and banking
- Herbivory monitoring
- Pollinator studies
- Seeding studies
- Ecological studies to understand the factors determining the distribution of Buckwheat
- Propagation and transplant studies
- Demographic Monitoring
- Population modeling
- Climate monitoring
- Genetic analyses
Based upon the best available science, we are highly confident that with a combination of avoidance and transplanting, as has been successfully demonstrated with other mat buckwheat species in the region, we can achieve the successful coexistence of Tiehm’s buckwheat and our environmentally important project, which will supply critically needed lithium products in the U.S.
Advocating for a Sustainable Future
To help accelerate America’s transition to a sustainable future and ensure that all members of the community benefit from the new energy economy, Ioneer is participating in various organizations at the federal and state level.
Zero Emission Transportation Association
As a founding member of the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA), Ioneer supports policies at the federal level that seeks to achieve 100% electric vehicle (EV) sales in the United States by 2030. ZETA is the first coalition of its kind in the US that brings together industry leaders, advocates and non-governmental organizations across the transportation, clean energy and technology sectors to drive policy changes that accelerate electric vehicle adoption.
One of ZETA’s key policy objectives is to advocate for domestic manufacturing across the EV supply chain, from critical minerals to vehicles. ZETA believes that as EV adoption continues to accelerate, federal policies ought to encourage domestic growth in manufacturing – creating jobs across the EV supply chain beginning with critical materials like the lithium and boron found at Rhyolite Ridge.
To learn more about ZETA visit zeta2030.org.
Federal Initiatives to Increase Domestic Production of Critical Minerals
The U.S. Department of Interior has listed lithium as a critical mineral. Lithium is necessary to support technologies that will serve to combat global climate change and reduce carbon emissions, particularly those technologies associated with electric transportation and storage mediums that can convert intermittent solar and wind resources into baseload power.
Boron is considered a strategic mineral by the U.S. Department of Defense due to its use in defense applications including aircraft engine components, personnel and vehicle armor, permanent magnets for electric motors, rocket fuels and wind turbines.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has developed a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals which includes a call to action to strengthen America’s critical mineral supply chains and defense industrial base.
Ioneer supports policies that are geared towards facilitating increased production of these critical minerals that are vital for a more sustainable world.
In 2021, the Biden-Harris administration announced a series of executive actions to tackle the climate crisis by encouraging domestic clean energy development and manufacturing, building modern and sustainable infrastructure, and creating good-paying jobs including:
- An Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad directs federal agencies to procure carbon pollution-free electricity, replacing the federal fleet with zero-emission vehicles, all while create good-paying, union jobs and stimulating clean energy industries.
- An Executive Order on Securing America’s Critical Supply Chains to explore how the U.S. can better leverage its sizable lithium reserves and know-how to expand domestic battery production.
- In February 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published “America’s Strategy to Secure the Supply Chain for a Robust Clean Energy Transition”—the first comprehensive U.S. government plan to build an Energy Sector Industrial Base. DOE recognizes that a secure, resilient energy supply chain will be critical in achieving these goals and capturing the economic opportunity inherent in the energy transition.
- An Executive Order Strengthening Buy American Provisions, Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers, which directs federal agencies to spend taxpayer dollars on goods made in the United States.
The Biden-Harris administration recently outlined its American Jobs Plan and two key goals are to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, and shore up domestic supply chains.
- The administration has proposed a significant investment in U.S. Electric Vehicle supply chains and to support American manufacturing of batteries and EVs. There is added emphasis on job creation and economic growth in rural areas.
- As Rhyolite Ridge will be producing materials essential for a domestic EV supply chain and do so while creating jobs in rural Nevada, we are pleased that the federal government is focused on these policy initiatives.
The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress in August 2022 has put the U.S. on a path to roughly 40% emissions reduction by 2030, and represents the largest climate investment in U.S. history. Among other provisions, this act:
- Establishes a $7,500 New Clean Vehicle Credit for vehicles that source 80% of their critical minerals (including lithium) from the U.S., North America, or allied countries by 2027. Vehicles also must source or manufacture 100% of battery components domestically by 2029 in order to qualify.
- Provides a $10 billion investment tax credit to build clean technology manufacturing facilities, $500 million in the Defense Production Act for heat pumps and critical mineral processing, $2 billion in grants to retool existing auto manufacturing facilities to manufacture clean vehicles, and up to $20 billion in loans to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities.
- Invests in Communities and Environmental Justice by providing $1 billion for clean heavy-duty vehicles including school and transit buses.
Ioneer supports policies at the state level that will accelerate the growth of a Nevada based electric vehicle supply chain.
Nevada has continued to show a bi-partisan commitment to climate leadership by supporting the development and deployment of renewable energy resources and technologies.
Clean Cars Nevada
In June 2020, the Clean Cars Nevada initiative was introduced and is directed to provide Nevadans with more choices for low and zero emission electric passenger cars and trucks through regulatory and legislative actions. Ioneer is a proud member of the Nevada Clean Cars Coalition – a group of Nevada businesses and organizations that have joined together to advocate for increased clean car standards.
On October 25, 2021, Nevada became the 16th state in the nation to adopt clean cars after the Legislative Commission approved the Clean Cars Nevada program in a bipartisan vote. The vote marked the final approval step after the Nevada State Environmental Commission voted unanimously to support the program in July.
Climate Change Action Plan
In December 2020, the State released a comprehensive climate change action plan to help curb emissions across Nevada. The first of these policies that is being considered by the state is to increase the availability of zero and low-emission vehicles in Nevada by requiring manufacturers to offer a minimum amount of ZEV and LEVs as a percentage of their overall fleet.
For the State to be successful in meeting its mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets and to fully realize benefits from the Electric Vehicle Demonstration Program and the Nevada Electric Highway initiative, lithium-ion batteries are essential for displacing the US fossil-fuel burning transportation fleet. A local electric battery supply chain is also essential for economic diversification and the creation of long-lasting, good paying jobs in rural areas.